Michael McCarthy:  Working on Passion, a new dance-opera

September 18, 2018 by

The UK’s leading contemporary opera company, Music Theatre Wales, will join forces with National Dance Company Wales to present PASSION a new dance-opera by Pascal Dusapin to tour England and Wales across the autumn.

Passion has been seen widely across Europe but never before in the UK. This new production created in collaboration with fellow world-leading contemporary specialists London Sinfonietta and EXAUDI, will be performed in a newly commissioned English translation by Amanda Holden and directed by Michael McCarthy and Caroline Finn.


We are now starting Week 3 of rehearsals for Passion, and it is intense, demanding, complex and joyous work! The collaboration between singers and dancers is proving to be as thrilling and stimulating as I had dared to imagine, and working alongside Caroline Finn as co-director is equally extraordinary, lifting the work to new heights and adding a new perspective.

So what are the challenges? Firstly, this is a fully sung and fully danced work, and not an opera in which there is dance, or a dance with singers. This means it has to work as dance and music theatre in equal measure, but we make our work in different ways, adopting different processes and somehow need to bring these together.

The method we have adopted is to stay true to each art-form’s individual process, initially working in separate rooms, but then coming together as much as possible. Our timescales are slightly different and there is the important issue of daily Class for the dancers, but we’ve now established a warm-up or mini-class for the singers too, because they really do have to move! Of course, this depends entirely on having singers and dancers who are willing and able to embrace both disciplines on stage, and this cast is relishing every aspect of this and every challenge it is throwing at them. Seeing the dancers respond in awe to what the singers do with their voices and bodies is fantastic, and all of us coming from MTW are blown away by not only the incredible physicality of the dancers, but also their ability to remember so much detail of the score and their abundant creative playfulness. It is certainly inspiring to watch!

As with all MTW shows, we are working on set from the first day of rehearsal, but today it started to reveal its magic as we introduced the third element. In fact there are only three elements to play with – a cloth, a ladder and a light box.  These elements take the visual language to the work’s essence and require us to be equally disciplined and perpetually creative. Designed by Simon Banham – as was the first ever MTW show 30 years ago but a first for NDCWales,with lighting by Joe Fletcher, a regular designer for NDCWales but the first time for MTW – the depth of this artistic collaboration extends across all areas of the creation.

My hope is that we will give both the dance audience and the opera/music theatre audience an incredibly special experience – like no other. Beautiful, searching, textured music full of fleeting melodies and rich sonorities combined with vocal and physical expression in equal measure, in an emotionally charged, delicate and shifting contemporary take on one of the oldest stories in music – Orpheus and Euridice. This time, the female perspective is truly taken into account, which is not the normal way of things in opera…


Tour dates:

Thursday 11 October Anvil, Basingstoke

Saturday 13 October, Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall,London

Tuesday 23 October Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Tuesday 30 October Snape Maltings, Suffolk

Tuesday 6 November Lowry, Salford

Saturday 10 November Theatr Clwyd Mold



Leave a Reply